Sammy’s is a hoot. You would not know it was a restaurant as it is located in a roadhouse without a sign. It started as a speakeasy in the 1920’s and is still owned by the Fornaro family with a menu that features steaks, lobsters, veal or pork chops, lamb and fish. Dinners include a salad, entrée, french fries, a fresh vegetable, dessert, coffee and/or tea,
Since novices may be confused when they walk into Sammy’s—as no one will seat you—this is the drill. Upon entering the restaurant, stand in line by the hostess station and when it is your turn your order will be taken. Check their website so you will know what you want to eat before you go there. If you have not done your homework on the internet, there is a menu to look at, and if you ask the hostess, dishes will be described. After giving your order proceed to the noisy basement bar with its pinball machines and TVs. The bartender will ask your name and let you know when your table is ready. The bar tab is automatically added to your dinner bill. Reservations are not accepted, so depending on the crowd you may wait anywhere from a ½ hour or much more until you are called upstairs for your dinner.
Like most of the people who dine here the Safersteins usually order a steak (dry aged T-bone, steak for two, dry-aged bone in NY strip or filet mignon), lobster (two to an order) as well as their signature dish of crispy shrimp scampi, Sammy’s style. Since we have been dining here almost 40 years and have tried everything on the unchanging menu, we sometimes mix and match, such as one lobster with one loin lamb chop or one veal chop with one pork chop. The steak is juicy and tender but not as good as you would get at Pete Luger’s. The lobsters are perfectly cooked and the french fries, which are cooked in beef fat, are crispy and addictive. The bread and butter in tin foil can be skipped, and be forewarned that the tomato, lettuce and onion salad comes with a robust vinaigrette. You may want your dressing on the side. We usually do not order an appetizer such as pasta, soup or roasted peppers, as the entree portions are sizeable and filling. For dessert, we usually opt for the cheesecake or the apple crisp and often have it wrapped to take home.
The décor is forgettable with a country mural surrounding the cafeteria looking dining room. White tablecloths and napkins cover long tables and wine glasses are etched with “Sammy’s” on them. On Tuesday nights, half priced bottles of wine from a select list are offered. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
Sammy’s Ye Old Cider Mill
353 Mendham Road West (Route 24)
ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS
PUNTO ROSSO, MONCLAIR
As soon as we were seated at Punto Rosso, our waiter asked, “Are you gluten free?” This newly opened restaurant offers a 100% gluten-free menu, as well as traditional Italian dishes. We shared an artichoke stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese: a messy but delicious treat. Our go-to dishes, pappardelle Bolognese and a juicy pork chop with a balsamic vinegar and fig reduction, can both be highly recommended. Other menu items include salads, hot and cold antipasti, pasta, and fish, chicken beef and pork entrees. The D’Bomba, a chocolate, gluten-free mini cake drizzled with chocolate and paired with vanilla gelato was disappointing and we would opt for a “regular” dessert on our next visit. Service was attentive and the black tablecloths with red napkins were fitting as the name of the restaurant means “red point” in Italian. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 AM. BYO
6 Park Street
SONOMA BISTRO, RUTHERFORD
This storefront restaurant with a menu featuring Mexican cuisine is a good option for those looking for a casual lunch, dinner or brunch. The beautiful and unusual rendition of guacamole created with bacon, jumbo crab meat, cilantro, lime juice, red onion, jalapeno, tomato and served with home made tortilla chips is a “must order” dish. Also, consider chicken or beef empanadas, two to an order, each are large enough to share and are paired with avocado crema and a chipotle sauce. Successful entrees include the pork tenderloin in a plum reduction served with crispy onions, grilled asparagus and sweet potato mash; Angus skirt steak with cilantro chimichurri sauce and spinach; and perfectly cooked, moist, seared salmon in a balsamic-grape reduction accompanied by garlic-mashed cauliflower and sautéed zucchini and carrot strings. Avoid the grilled pork chops which were tough and overcooked. Pasta, salads, burgers, sandwiches and beef, chicken and fish entrees are also available at dinner. Raisin bread and Italian bread were served with apricot butter; an enjoyable change from the usual breadbasket. While specials were recited without the prices, we got a chuckle out of the dessert menu with four options (chocolate molten lava cake, banana cream pie, apple bread pudding and zeppole) which stated “Sweet Endings Only $6.” We bypassed these uninspiring finales. Open daily from 8 AM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday till 11 PM.BYO
59 Park Avenue
UZBEKISTANA MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE, BOONTON
Central-Asian food similar to Turkish cuisine, such as hummus, babaganush, falafel and shepherd salad, are found at this casual storefront restaurant. These dishes were all excellent: spicy and tangy shredded carrot salad; crunchy house-made puffed pastry stuffed with ground lamb and beef; smoky babaganush; tender lamb shank with basmati rice strewed with carrots and raisin; ethereal steamed lamb filled dumplings (manti) topped with yogurt and tomato sauce; and shredded lamb, cooked with fresh tomatoes which can be ordered with rice or naan. Kebabs are also available. Our choice for dessert was baklava—delicious, as was the whole meal. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Sunday from 1 to 9 PM. BYO
Uzbekistana Mediterranean Cuisine
624 Main Street
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein